How granny evolved so as not to be thrown under the bus
From Rachel Caspari in Scientific American (July 21, 2011), we learn about “The Evolution of Grandparents: Senior citizens may have been the secret of our species’s success”:
Recent analyses of fossil teeth indicate that grandparents were rare in ancient populations, such as those of the australopithecines and the Neandertals. They first became common around 30,000 years ago, as evidenced by remains of early modern Europeans.
This surge in the number of seniors may have been a driving force for the explosion of new tool types and art forms that occurred in Europe at around the same time. It also may explain how modern humans outcompeted archaic groups such as the Neandertals.
Good example of a formula “human evolution” story: Find something that’s changed and make up an evolution scenario that accounts for it.
If facts mattered (which they don’t when we are talking about human evolution), young adults are more likely to invent things than older ones. The fact that more people live to be grandparents in a developing society (even a very ancient one) is no guarantee that they are useful or pleasant, or are perceived to be so.
It is worth reflecting on—not jumping to conclusions about—the fourth commandment in the Decalogue: Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16). It is easy to find ancient literature extolling the virtue (once called filial piety) of honouring one’s parents, and old people generally. Only an evolutionary psychologist could imagine that the generally prescriptive nature of these writings/sayings derives from the advantages senior citizens created. But these days, no proposition is too foolish to be advanced on Darwin’s behalf.
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